Salpa: Nutritional Properties, Role in Diet and How to Cook


What is the salpa?

Salpa is the name of an extremely widespread and inexpensive sea bony fish, but little appreciated from a food point of view.

Thanks to its biological characteristics - habitat, reproduction and growth - it can be captured with the means of small-scale fishing in a completely eco-sustainable way.

Although it is not blue fish but white fish, it has fair nutritional properties and is, together with mullet, bogue, glance and soup or frying fish, the most indicative exponent of the so-called poor fish.

Of the 3st fundamental group of foods, the salpa is rich in proteins of high biological value, specific vitamins and minerals. Being a peach product, it uses the excellent concentration of omega XNUMX semi-essential polyunsaturated fatty acids - such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) - vitamin D (calciferol) and iodine.

Did you know that ...

While it's hard to believe, some parts of the salpa appear to have hallucinogenic effects. These would be attributable to the composition of one of the algae it eats, the Caulerpa taxifolia, which in some periods secretes these poisonous elements.

It is not clear why it is believed that these effects are also induced by the fish's head; perhaps it is the result of a "selective" deposit in the nervous tissue of the fish. The rest of the fish are totally harmless.

The salpa is suitable for most diets. It has no contraindication in the diet of the healthy subject and of the one affected by the metabolic pathologies typical of the metabolic syndrome. However, there are some exceptions which we will discuss in detail in the next paragraph.

The salpa can be cooked in all ways, even if it could be defined more suitable for stewing and frying. Stir-fried or boiled, it is excellent accompanied by various sauces, which are usually too tasty to season fish.

The salpa has a fairly conventional shape. More elongated than bream, sea bream, snapper, bream, pagro, tanuta and pezzogna, it is less tapered than mullet and sea bass. Its mainly recognizable morphological characteristic is the color, typically striped horizontally, with alternating stripes of silver and gold tones. Fins and eyes only yellowish. The mouth is typically small in size.

The salpa is a sparid of the genus Sarpa and salpa species. It lives in the Eastern Atlantic Ocean and throughout the Mediterranean Sea, generally in the first 20 m of water. It feeds on invertebrates when it is small and especially on sea lettuce in adulthood. He has a distinctly gregarious attitude. It is born male to become female in adulthood and reproduces abundantly in autumn.

It is fished both professionally and as an amateur. Despite its abundance in the seas, it has a rather limited trade - this association is by no means accidental. In spearfishing, given the ability to select prey of greater gastronomic value, it is usually ignored. With the line he bites especially in shore fishing, while trying to catch mullets, white breams, sea bream and sea bass.

Did you know that ...

In Liguria there is the "belief" that there is a more appreciable type of salpa - salpa di corsa - with an elongated shape, which would gather on the tips of the shore in spring and autumn.

Nutritional Properties

Nutritional properties of the salpa

The salpa is a fishery product that falls within the 3st fundamental group of foods. It is part of the poor fish category but not blue fish, while it has all the characteristics of white fish; however, it provides good levels of: omega XNUMX semi-essential polyunsaturated fatty acids - eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) - vitamin D and iodine.

Despite the excellent protein concentration, the salpa has a medium-low energy supply, a nutritional characteristic mainly due to the modest lipid concentration. It is a lean fish in all respects - but not as skinny as cod and plaice. Calories would then be largely supplied by peptides, followed by less relevant concentrations of lipids and irrelevant carbohydrates. Proteins are of high biological value - they contain all essential amino acids compared to the human model. The fatty acids are mainly unsaturated and, as anticipated, probably characterized by an excellent level of biologically active polyunsaturated omega 3 essential seeds (EPA and DHA); any carbohydrate traces should be soluble.

The salpa does not contain fiber, while the amount of cholesterol is significant but not excessive. Lactose and gluten are completely absent, the concentration of purines is abundant and histamine, absent in the fresh product, can rapidly increase in badly preserved fish. Being a high protein food, it is also a significant source of phenylalanine amino acid.

Salpa is likely rich in water-soluble B vitamins, such as thiamine (vit B1), riboflavin (vit B2), niacin (vit PP), pyridoxine (vit B6) and cobalamin (vit B12). It should also have excellent levels of the fat-soluble vitamin calciferol (vit D). The levels of iron, zinc and potassium are appreciable; it is almost certain that it is also a relevant source of phosphorus and iodine.

The salpa is a creature potentially at risk of infestation with Anisakis simplex. It is a herbivorous fish that does not reach large dimensions; this means that the accumulation of mercury and methylmercury in its meats is very low. It is therefore not essential to avoid eating adult salps, even those of considerable size (over a kilogram of weight). However DON'T is to be excluded the presence of algal toxins, especially in the head. It is therefore advisable to pay attention to carefully remove the entire head of this fish to reduce the risk of it ending up on the plate.

Salpa poisoning

The salpa, consumed in greater quantities in the nations of France, Israel, Algeria and Tunisia, is one of the few native fish of the Mediterranean Sea capable of triggering a syndrome called - in English - ichtyosarcotoxisme.

This pathological manifestation is mainly due to the consumption of the intestine of the fish, in which algal toxins accumulate - alone in certain seasons - produced by the Caulerpa taxifolia - commonly known as killer algae. Its hallucinogenic properties, exploited mainly in the Pacific Ocean by Melanesians and Polynesians during religious rites, are also described by some texts on the Mare Nostrum dating back to the Roman Empire.

However, there are many who argue that even eating the head of the salpa can incur nerotoxic effects. This could only be explained by a deposit of these substances in the tissues of the central nervous system, more precisely in the brain.


nourisher Quantity'
Acqua 77,3 g
Protein 18,0 g
Lipids 2,7 g
Saturated Fatty Acids g
Monounsaturated Fatty Acids g
Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids g
Cholesterol 62,0 mg
Carbohydrates TOT 2,0 g
Starch / Glycogen 0,0 g
Soluble sugars 2,0 g
Dietary Fiber 0,0 g
Soluble 0,0 g
Insoluble 0,0 g
Energy law 104,0 kcal
Sodium - mg
Potassium 540,0 mg
Iron 4,3 mg
Soccer 28,0 mg
Phosphorus and Potassium - mg
Magnesium 29,0 mg
Zinc 3,3 mg
Copper 0,6 mg
Selenium - mcg
Thiamine or Vitamin B1 - mg
Riboflavin or vitamin B2 - mg
Niacina o vitamina PP - mg
Vitamin B6 - mg
folate - mcg
Vitamin B12 - mcg
Vitamin C or Ascorbic Acid tr
Vitamina A o RAE - mcg
Vitamin D - IU
Vitamin K - mcg
Vitamin E and Alpha Tocopherol - mg


Set sail in the diet

The salpa is a food suitable for most diets.

Normally digestible despite the high concentration of proteins, excessive portions may still be inadequate for people with digestive complications such as: dyspepsia, gastritis, gastroesophageal reflux disease, gastric or duodenal ulcer.

Salpa lends itself to slimming diets, which must be low-calorie and normolipidic. Being rather lean, in the kitchen it can be prepared using a little extra virgin olive oil even in nutritional therapy against obesity.

The abundance of high biological value proteins makes the salpa ideal in the diet of malnourished, defied or with an increased need for essential amino acids. This type of food is recommended in the case of very high intensity motor sports, especially in strength disciplines or with a very important hypertrophic muscle component, and for all particularly prolonged aerobic disciplines. The salpa is also suitable in case of breastfeeding, pathological intestinal malabsorption and in the elderly - in which the eating disorder and decreased intestinal absorption tend to create a protein deficit.

EPA and DHA, polyunsaturated omega 3 seeds essential but biologically active, are very important for: the constitution of cell membranes, the development of the nervous system and eyes - in the fetus and children - the prevention and treatment of some metabolic diseases - hypertriglyceridemia, arterial hypertension, etc. - the maintenance of cognitive functions in old age, the reduction of some symptoms of neurosis - depressive symptoms - etc.

Due to the absence of gluten and lactose, salpa is relevant in the diet for celiac disease and for intolerance to milk sugar. The abundance of purines makes it unwanted, in considerable portions, in the nutritional regimen for hyperuricemia, especially of severe entity - with gouty attacks - and in that for kidney stones or uric acid lithiasis. Well preserved, it has no contraindications for histamine intolerance. The massive presence of phenylalanine precludes its significant use in the diet against phenylketonuria.

The B vitamins have a mainly coenzyme function; this is why the salpa can be considered a good source of nutrients that support the cellular functions of all tissues. Vitamin D, on the other hand, is crucial for bone metabolism and the immune system. Note: remember that food sources of vitamin D are very rare.

Phosphorus, hardly lacking in the diet, is one of the main constituents of bone (hydroxyapatite) and nervous (phospholipids) tissue. Zinc makes up enzymes, nucleic acids and proteins of various kinds. Iron is an essential constituent of hemoglobin, in turn necessary for the transport of gases by red blood cells; the deficiency, more frequent in pregnant women, vegans and marathon runners, can induce the onset of iron deficiency anemia. Potassium, of which foods of animal origin DON'T are considered primary nutritional sources, it is an alkalizing mineral responsible for neuromuscular transmission, which can also hinder the negative effects of excess sodium in sodium sensitive hypertension therapy. Finally, iodine is necessary for the correct functioning of the thyroid gland - responsible for regulating cellular metabolism after secreting the hormones T3 and T4.

Salpa is allowed in the diet during pregnancy, as long as it is well cooked and free of intestinal or head residues. For those wishing to consume it raw instead, we remind you to subject it to temperature reduction.

The average portion of salpa meat - as a dish - is 100-150 g (100-150 kcal).


How is salpa cooked?

Salpa can be cooked in various ways, but as mentioned above it has organoleptic and gustatory characteristics that are not always appreciated.

In truth, this tendency is more than anything else the fruit of a defamatory work; given the collective ignorance of everything related to fish cooking - even the alleged experts - very few would recognize it in the dish without first having seen it raw - and even in the latter case, not everyone would identify it successfully.

Outside of personal tastes, the only objective truth is that the salpa has a very intense flavor. It feeds on invertebrates when young and above all on algae as an adult, which is why its meat maintains a very intense "green" aftertaste. To be honest, not all saleps are the same; in fact, the specimens that colonize seas poor in algae are often found to feed differently, an aspect that can alter the final result of a recipe.

Due to the chemical nature of its fabrics, the salpa must be eaten fresh. It should never be purchased "in a poke" and it is not advisable to freeze it. At the time of purchase it is essential to check the state of conservation; furthermore, when defrosted, it loses most of its flavor, keeping only the little appreciable characteristics.

Another key aspect of successful salpa cooking is cleanliness. The bowels are very smelly and should not be left in the fish for a long time; on the contrary, the correct procedure would want the salpa to be eviscerated and deprived of the peritoneum - the black film that covers the inside of the belly - as soon as it is captured. This practice also reduces the risk of contamination of the meat by the algal toxin of Caulerpa taxifolia.

Being able to choose, like the mullet, also the salpa should be purchased in the early spring period. This is because, having spent the whole winter eating little, the fish has almost always semi-empty bowels and very limited stores of fat. The flavor and aroma are therefore generally milder.

The salpa can be eaten raw, but it is not one of the most suitable fish for this purpose. This fish should be used above all in fried and stewed recipes, being very careful not to break it during cooking - to avoid the scattering of bones. The meat is, in truth, with all the systems of heat transmission - conduction, convection and radiation - and the cooking methods - boiling, roasting in the oven or on the grill, in a pan, etc. However, it has a tendency to dry quickly, which makes it difficult - if large and, even worse, if reduced into fillets - to cook over wood embers or in a ventilated oven. On the other hand, closed inside a foil it maintains a perhaps excessively intense smell and taste.

Boiled or cooked in white in a pan, it is probably the fish that lends itself most to accompanying certain sauces - not only mayonnaise, but also based on aromatic herbs.


Description of the salpa

The salpa has an ellipsoidal shape, less round than the bream, sea bream, snapper, pagro, pezzogna, tanuta and bream, but not tapered like mullet and sea bass. It has a very small mouth; the eyes, of medium size, are yellow. Eyes and fins are pale yellow, while the lateral coat - with medium scales - is typically striped longitudinally - parallel to the lateral line - alternating with 10 silver and gold colored bands. The belly is white, the back darker than the flanks, basically dark green.

The salpa has 11-12 dorsal spines and 14-17 soft dorsal rays. The anal spines are 3, with 13-15 soft anal rays. There is a black dot at the base of the pectorals.

It normally reaches 30 centimeters in length; the maximum recorded is 51 cm.


Elements of biology on the salpa

The salpa belongs to the Perciformes Order, Sparidae Family, Sarpa Genus and salpa species.

Colonizes the marine and brackish subtropical areas of the benthopelagic, at depths normally included in the first 20 m and exceptionally up to 70 m. It is present in the Eastern Atlantic Ocean, the Bay of Biscay and the Strait of Gibraltar in Sierra Leone, including Madeira, the Canary Islands and Cape Verde. It is also common in Congo and is also very present in the Mediterranean Sea.

The salpa populates rocky and sandy substrates, with posidonia and algae growth. It is strongly gregarious. When young it is mainly carnivorous and feeds on crustaceans, while in adulthood it is exclusively herbivorous and eats algae. It has properties of protandric hermaphroditism (it is born male and becomes female at about 25 cm in length).

It is only fished in a limited way, due to its not excellent gastronomic reputation. With a well-fed population, it would instead be an extremely sustainable fishery product. It can be caught with nets, lines and spearguns. However, in spearfishing it is generally ignored. With the reed, on the other hand, it constitutes an occasional prey when searching for mullets, sea bream and white breams.

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